Human isn’t much fun either. Cattle and sheep are positively benign while opinion is divided about pigs and poultry – much depends on how they’re kept and what they are fed on. But there is no argument about the most prevalent type as far as most of us are concerned.
Correct – dog. Go where you will in city, town or countryside, at some point you will have to take avoiding action. That’s if you keep your eyes open. Otherwise if on a pavement there’s that sinking feeling of finding you’re now leaving a large brown splodge every other step. Or you enter the house in a hurry without checking and mark the carpet. Or, worse, wonder a minute or two later where the smell is coming from. Or a visitor unwittingly does the same.
I remember a colleague writing about that some years ago. Interviewing a well-known writer he sat for an hour in the author’s pleasant living room, as the man’s Labrador trotted in and out, wondering why something wasn’t done about the dog’s behaviour as betrayed by an overpowering smell of dog excrement. Only as my colleague left did he spot the large wodge of it on the underside of his own shoe.
Easily done and with so much of it about, hard to avoid. My estimate is that comparing the number of dog walkers I see with the incidence of dog droppings, there are about five responsible walkers – that is, pick up, bag it and put the bag in a bin – to every malefactor – that is, don’t pick up or, the morons-only division, bag it, then throw the bag away.
Walkers can gauge how close they are to civilisation by the steady increase in heaps of dog excrement on paths. Black bags of dog faeces dangling in the hawthorn bushes has become a vision of rural Britain.
Surely, I think, the most likely people to spot offenders are other dog walkers? Why don’t they take more action? One reason is that those who don’t pick up can be aggressive people with unpleasant dogs and respond to a mild “Shouldn’t you pick that up?” with anything from “Nae bag” to “Be off with you”.
I doubt that fines work. Like trying to stop drivers using mobile phones the fine can be what we like, but no deterrent if not enforced. Personally, if invited to write one of those “If I ruled the world” columns, I would ban dogs from towns and cities. And why not from the countryside too? Why should those of us who don’t like dogs have to put up with dog excrement, “He’s only playing”, “He’s only jumping up because he likes you” or the plaintive “Come back, come here, come here, don’t do that…”?
Sorry, carried away with the pleasant thought of a world without dogs. But NFU Scotland, and Keep Scotland Beautiful, is trying hard to encourage more control of dogs and what they do in the countryside. The union suggests, a more charitable estimate than mine, that nine out of ten owners clean up. They put that on a poster in a recent campaign, along with another aimed at thoughtless dog owners noting “We’re watching you”.
The six-week campaign on four sites – two in the Pentlands, one in Dumbarton, one in Motherwell – reduced dog fouling by more than 50 per cent. That is impressive, but I suspect short term. The union suspects the same because dog fouling on farmland is not covered by the Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003. It is not an offence to leave faeces lying in the countryside, although the dangers of dog excrement on grazing land causing parasitic diseases in farm animals is more of a threat than town and city walkers getting it on their shoes.
It should be an offence in country as well as town, but as noted the problem is enforcement. If offenders on busy streets can’t be caught and fined, what chance over several hundred acres?